Universal Access To All Knowledge
Home Donate | Store | Blog | FAQ | Jobs | Volunteer Positions | Contact | Bios | Forums | Projects | Terms, Privacy, & Copyright
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload

Reply to this post | See parent post | Go Back
View Post [edit]

Poster: cartoonsonfilm Date: Nov 28, 2009 8:32am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: What is a 'restoration' and is it grounds for ownership of PD materials?

Hello Everyone,
Unfortunately I only have a couple minutes to address some of the concerns in this thread. I'll start with the last post.

Walt Disney's 1923-1926 Alice Comedies were distributed by M.J. Winkler, who was infamous for never copyrighting the films she distributed. There are no copyright records for these, and the Krazy Kat shorts she also handled. Likewise, there are no copyright records for the Mutt & Jeff cartoons. This was all confirmed by me on a visit to the Library of Congress' Motion Picture Reading Room.

The Bray Studios existed in some form or another until 2008, when the last remaining stock of the corporation was overturned as the last surviving owner donated the studio effects to the Library of Congress. Again, this was confirmed through another visit to the Library.

I am curious how many of the commenters here actively work with PD or "orphan" films which are no longer being commercially exploited...in many cases, not for the past 50+ years. When I was researching these films at an early age, it was highly frustrating to see images from them in books and not find the films for actual viewing. There seems to be a general consensus and 'thanks' from researchers for now being able to see them, and it's unsure to me if the posters here share that sentiment. Is it better for these films to stay hidden for decades, even if their copyright situation is murky at best?

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: yofitofu Date: Nov 28, 2009 10:59am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: What is a 'restoration' and is it grounds for ownership of PD materials?

Tom,

I initiated this post, so I will try to clarify my question and my position. I applaud you for your passion in finding and transferring these rare animations to video. Your work is laudable and I seriously intend to order quite a few of them from you shortly to help support your efforts financially. You clearly have a passion for your pursuit and it shows.

However, I want to make it clear that if I order these films from you, I am under no obligation to you in any way as to how I use them, provided they are verifiably in the public domain (many on your list are not). Thus you can claim "ownership" of the "restorations" of these films on your site, http://cartoonsonfilm.com/disclaimer.html, but it is not enforceable in any way, unless you can show me which aspects of the work you have creatively altered to make them unique and copyrightable.

I could post them on Archive.org if I wanted to, but I won't as I have a different commercial application for them, but again the only profit you can make off of them is in the initial sale of the DVD to me. That's the nature of the PD marketplace. If there are others reading this post who disagree with me, please let me here from you, because this is the assumption I make and have always made about PD.

My second concern is that, as another person pointed out, you have quite a few titles offered which clearly have renewed their copyrights. My Bible on this is the Film Superlist 1894-1939 by Walter Hurst (a $600 investment but well worth it) which reprints all copyrights on every title ever registered during this time period and whether or not they were renewed. This book is a more efficient, handy and reliable authority than even a visit to the Library of Congress.

US films before 1923 are generally considered PD, but many after 1923, like most Felix The Cats, Koko and Paul Terry (and quite a few others on your list) are shown as having their copyright renewed. My intent here is not to dampen your enthusiasm or keep these films away from the public eye, but to protect you from a copyright infringement suit at some point in the future - which is not unlikely when you are dealing with Disney titles....and others. Please check out this invaluable book to determine which of your titles are yours to resell.

So, as I said, I do intend to support you with an order shortly. Please let me know if you disagree with my position that your public domain materials are mine to do as I choose with once I have paid you to deliver them to me on DVD.

Thanks. Yofitofu.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: cartoonsonfilm Date: Nov 28, 2009 11:35am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: What is a 'restoration' and is it grounds for ownership of PD materials?

I think you're treading into an area of human courtesy with the book of law in hand. Now that you have made it known that you have some commercial interest in these films, I can only wonder and will publicly ask- what is your intent? Others have reused the films that I make available, and usually with my assistance... because I am involved in this field on a daily basis and stay in touch with most individuals who buy my material (a level of intimacy most corporate DVD outfits cannot pursue).

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: yofitofu Date: Nov 28, 2009 12:15pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: What is a 'restoration' and is it grounds for ownership of PD materials?

Actually, I'm not being discourteous. On the contrary, I am trying to be decent by coming to you with a checkbook, not a lawbook in hand. My problem was with the legal notice you posted on your site, which seemed to claim that you had done "restorations" on these materials which gave you some claim of copyright in them. I'm just asking you to explain what you mean by that since the only legit claims for this that I know of are "colorization", "pan and scan" and copyrightable music. I didn't want you to feel bad if they were ordered from you and used and shared and resold widely, like the Prelinger materials are.

I don't feel compelled to put my business plan in writing in a public forum, but suffice it to say that it doesn't involve selling DVD compilations which would directly compete with your enterprise with these PD materials, although I presume others could do this should they desire, which is a risk you take when you make them available to the public.

I can understand that as an archivist and lover of these films, you feel a deep attachment to them and a sense of ownership of them. You have worked hard to bring them to the public and it seems unfair that anyone could just take them and also use them with a $20 fee to you. It is inherent in the phrase - "because I am involved in this field on a daily basis and stay in touch with most individuals who buy my material" - but I think it is important to understand that, respectfully, Public Domain materials are not your materials. They belong to the public and you cannot control other individual's ability to copy them (the copyright). You can copy them freely and resell them and so can anyone else who buys them from you. Your profit is in the initial sale of them, not in the ongoing control and administration of what happens to them after they leave your hands. This may seem harsh or legalistic, but it is a fundamental aspect of the public domain as I understand it.

So can you say what kind of restoration work you have done on these cartoons which makes them your exclusive property to enforce copyright on?That's my fundamental question which started this thread.

Thanks. yofitofu

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: cartoonsonfilm Date: Nov 28, 2009 12:54pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: What is a 'restoration' and is it grounds for ownership of PD materials?

I do understand that you are trying to be courteous, but then again, you did not contact me directly. Instead you have started a public discussion, which is fine, and it may have gone on without my noticing it- at a loss to me.

My questioning your business plans were akin to your asking for me to publicly state some of the technical sides of this endeavor. In both areas, some of these things are not topics the public are privy to and this is to protect those individuals working with the material, just as it would be a protective measure for a business person not to post his or her business plan on the internet.

While it is true that I do not "own" said material in a copyright sense and that buyers can copy the material is a moot point. Some have done this, tried replicating my operation and did not catch on for a simple reason. They are not the same multi-faceted individual making connections with other collectors, archives, researching, or doing many of the other things necessary to really be recognized in the preservation field. They indeed wrote a check and tried recouping their loss and I'm sure in time they realized that they could not start being a person like myself just by doing this. I am not going anywhere and will continue to be an active figure in this niche so long as I am breathing. The same cannot be said for those copycats I've encountered.

Like you said, I cannot control the films once they are purchased by someone. But to have them become profitable outside of my hands, if at all possible, would put a direct financial damper on my ability to locate more of these films. That is the most important task, here, and anyone who wants to attempt the same would be directly competing with me. You are also not buying the original prints in this case. Why try to reinvent the wheel?

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: Administrator, Curator, or StaffVideo-Cellar Date: Nov 28, 2009 3:39pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: What is a 'restoration' and is it grounds for ownership of PD materials?

I am heavily involved in the use, restoration and release of Public Domain films, even releasing otherwise "lost" films. This is my business.

In using public domain material, I understand that I have no legal basis to claim rights on the public domain content that I use. I can claim rights on new material I create (tinting, musical arrangements, pans and scans, etc) just not the original work, no matter how much painstaking work I have done. I have still only copied the original work and there is "no copyright in a copy of an expired work" (and the law is not grey on that).

I know that the minute I list my new transfer of X movie that I spent 6 months preparing I am opening it up to commercial exploitation. I can ask nicely for other people not to use it, but I can't enforce the request, so I don't bother asking. Ever major US PD distributor has 'borrowed' my work. It sometimes annoys me that I didn't get paid beyond the sale price of the DVD. But I just deal with it. It is the business I have chosen and thats just how it works. All I can do is undercut them or give the film away for free.

I agree with you that an individual's decision to use the product of a person's hard work is a matter of decency. But where there is no law to guide or enforce acceptable use, there is no way to control the use of your work. It is also a matter of decency whether or not the vendor misguides their customers as to the rights held in the work. Some legislation is made about this in the US and most other countries. It is usually referred to as "copyfraud." Its no more decent to misguide your customer into what legal rights you actually have as it is for them to exploit your work without credit.

Below is my standard disclaimer which attempts to be far more accurate in terms of the rights I hold in my DVDs and not to misguide my customers:

"Video Cellar DVDs are independent public domain releases. Our DVDs are made using the highest quality DVD recording media and are professionally mastered using the best available film prints. These DVDs are presented in a quality hard plastic DVD case with full colour insert. These items are sent cellophane wrapped.
We do not sell Bootlegs or counterfeit DVDs. We sell DVDs mastered with precision, care and quality from the best possible sources. We know you will enjoy viewing the classic films that we are making available through our DVD label and ebay store.
All of our films have been thoroughly researched and their public domain status has been determined. Our DVDs are produced in accordance with the Copyright Acts 1912, 1968 and Copyright (International Protection) Regulations (British films made available in accordance with Schedule 1.12(2)(e) of the UK Copyright Designs and Patents Act, 1988) from prints held by the Video Cellar archives. Enhanced images from the original public domain films or original public domain posters are used in cover art. Due to the age and archival nature of the film prints used, there may be some fluctuations in image and sound quality. Every care has been taken in transfering these decades old prints to DVD. Any minor imperfections present should not effect your enjoyment of the film.
Date of Publication: 1941-1943 Country: USA. Copyright not renewed. DVD released in Australia in accordance with Copyright (International Protection) Regulations. Any Trademarks used in this item listing are used for strictly descriptive purposes only. No association or endorsement is implied or inferred.
Cover Design, Menus, Artwork and Editorial content COPYRIGHT 2008 The Video Cellar, Australia."

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: cartoonsonfilm Date: Nov 28, 2009 4:26pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: What is a 'restoration' and is it grounds for ownership of PD materials?

Thank you for your wise insight, Video-Cellar. I completely agree with all the points you make. I must also mention that the explicit ownership wording was supplied to me by a third party while I was having my new website made. I am no web designer and did not control this aspect directly, and will see to it that it is changed. This wording was not on my former website which had been online since 2005.
But I do thank you for your comments on decency. I think we see eye to eye on this even though the explicit wording on my website is what seems to be part of the cause for this thread. I do not mean to mislead anyone and am simply looking to protect my work, maybe in more of a vocal manner than you are.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: Administrator, Curator, or StaffVideo-Cellar Date: Nov 28, 2009 4:41pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: What is a 'restoration' and is it grounds for ownership of PD materials?

Thanks, It is nice to see other young people in this business and doing it the right way. So many people are just buying a mill creek 50 pack to start a PD DVD business these days.

I am 28 and have been collecting films since I was in high school. I started a DVD transfer business 5 years ago which morphed into the DVD label when I mastered DVD authoring.

If I can give one bit of advice. When your using "orphaned" works as opposed to PD works keep as much documentation as you can for your searches for copyright owners. This will be your main protection in the unlikely event that someone ever claims copyright on the film. And you should change your road show poster. Disney and WB are very precious about the use of their trademark cartoon characters. I got a letter from Disney when I had a dvd with a rare "Uncle Tom" cartoon which has some Mickey-like character modelling, claiming trademark infringement for the still on the cover. If you don't do what they ask they will keep you in legal paperwork forever.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: cartoonsonfilm Date: Nov 28, 2009 4:57pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: What is a 'restoration' and is it grounds for ownership of PD materials?

Thanks for the kind words. Nowadays my poster only hangs in my home, I no longer use it when giving shows.

I have dealt with Disney's archive which bought some of my collections before obtaining their own film print materials of certain titles I have. Perhaps this has delayed their otherwise litigious nature.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: yofitofu Date: Nov 28, 2009 7:09pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: What is a 'restoration' and is it grounds for ownership of PD materials?

And I would say about "decency" that I had no idea what I considered an innocent question about PD and cartoonsonline would explode into these magnificent proportions, involving death threats, insults and accusations. I can appreciate what Mr. Stathe is doing. I just didn't like his legal wording. So I apologize for not just contacting cartoonsonline directly. I thank Video Cellar for his balanced words. Clearly there is some kind of giant PD DVD distribution business I was completely unaware of, and could have died for the cause.

Very strange group of people indeed.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: cartoonsonfilm Date: Nov 28, 2009 7:14pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: What is a 'restoration' and is it grounds for ownership of PD materials?

Strange? Yes, in some ways. Though, the word strange only signifies unfamiliarity. Again, we both could have avoided headaches if you would have contacted me directly, as many have in the past for similar uses. Museums show my films and they have appeared for free at charitable events. My website has been revised now thanks to Video-Cellar's suggestions. What I will say though, is it's best to learn about a specific field by talking to the people operating in it rather than skirting the circles to start a conversation outside of the loop. This only invites assumption and uninformed voices.